I chose a nap today.

I chose a nap today.

I chose a nap today. Few things seem as luxurious, as absolutely extravagant as a nap these days. But I did. And it wasn’t the first time this month. Or week. I glanced right over the scattered toys and microscopic Perler beads on the floor. I laid the book I’d been reading on my chest and closed my eyes.

But I haven’t written in days. The laundry is sitting wet in the washer. Nothing has been marked off the bullet journal in at least three hours.

And I closed my eyes.

“You can’t write what you haven’t lived.” I don’t remember who said it or if she was the originator of that pearl of wisdom, but it lodged. And every time I hear the whispering scream to “do more, be more, have more, share more, say more,” I whisper back, “No thanks, I’m living this one small and wonderful, messy and beautiful life. This season–with a flurry of little girls around my feet and in my lap and barnacled to my left calf and with a wall held up in prayer and Scripture and drawings made by big sisters and a husband who somehow keeps getting more and more interesting, what with his fun socks and newfound love of fountain pens–it’s ripe for living. And then napping.

So, to the world it might look like less. Less productivity. Less doing. Less to show for all my effort. But to the heart and soul it looks like everything.

So you gathered with girlfriends and ate chips and salsa by the gallons and laughed until you thought you might need Depends but no one took a picture. Or you realize when your child is two that you never wrote a blog for her first birthday and you think surely you’re giving her material for the therapist she’ll visit in her 30s when she describes her third child problems. Or you close your eyes and nap. (Because sometimes the living happens in the middle of the night potty trips and tuck-ins.)

Just because the moment wasn’t captured on your phone or task list, doesn’t mean it wasn’t captured where it matters. In your heart and in your soul. 


Tearing and Weaving. How we grow.

Tearing and Weaving. How we grow.

There is a spider outside the window. She is probably three inches across with a beautiful yellow and black design. Of course, we named her Charlotte. Every morning we stumble (I stumble, the younger girls bounce) into the kitchen to start the day. Sippy cup of milk for Peach, OJ for Lottie, coffee for me. And we make our way over to the window to check on our spider. This morning I watched her go around and around tearing up her old web and weaving a new one. She does this often. We’ve watched her make several iterations now because we’ve been watching her for weeks. It is mesmerizing.

This morning as I watched her tear down her old work and start again, I felt solidarity. It feels a lot like sanctification. The daily taking away of what doesn’t work or edify or bring beauty. The examination of my heart and uncovering ugly places that need to be reworked. The consideration of this particular season and my particular disciples, dismantling formulas and weaving growth and grace for this new day.

Our spider does this often and never knowing she has an audience. She spins and weaves and creates masterpiece after masterpiece, so that she can capture food and protect herself certainly, but also because she made to create. She doesn’t lament the demolition, and she doesn’t begrudge the construction. But with each gossamer thread she spells out glory.

I watched her spin and thought back over my last couple weeks, the plans that had to be ditched, the messes that had to be cleaned (so. much. throw. up.), the sour attitudes (mine the sourest), all the un-glorious of it. A lot of ugly came to the surface, and I had to hand to God some things that needed to be torn down. And now I have to be patient in the rebuilding.

It isn’t ever fun to feel like God’s forgotten you, but I’m guessing we’ve all felt that from time to time or maybe for a very long season. I think it’s okay to honestly tell Him how we feel. He might not change any of our circumstances, but that honest confession might be the gateway to weaving something new. And through it all–the surrendered undoing and the merciful creation–He’ll show us His glory in woven splendor.


Letting Them Go. Fear and our children.

Letting Them Go. Fear and our children.

Taken August 31, 2012. After 8 months of work, our dossier was ready to go to Ethiopia. The guy at FedEx took this (blurry) picture of us right before we mailed it off. Lydia had turned two that summer, and I was pregnant with Charlotte. 

When we first started this adoption journey, Lydia was 18 months old. She pronounced Ethiopia E-E-O-O, and her favorite thing to say was, “Mo, mo babies!” while she attempted to carry a half-dozen baby dolls in her arms. Fast forward four-and-a-half years and that adorable toddler is now a beautiful, compassionate first-grader. Her dream of “mo, mo babies” surrounds her in the swirl of little sisters God has given her. Granted, they don’t always do just what she wants like the baby dolls she used to play with, but they love her and look up to her and want to be just like her.

When we switched agencies this summer, we learned that our new agency highly recommends we only make one trip to Ethiopia. Instead of doing the two one-week trips that are usually 4-6 weeks apart, they recommend one trip that is usually around three weeks long. The main reason they recommend this is because our Ethiopian daughter becomes legally “ours” upon our successful court hearing which happens in the first trip. So, if we do one trip and stay in-country she is able to stay with us, and we can begin bonding with her in her home country, in the city and culture she knows and loves. After a lot of prayer, Matt and I decided one trip was the best option for our family. It wasn’t long after we received confirmation of that decision that the question started circling in my heart, “Should we bring Lydia?” In my typical fashion, I mentally made a pros and cons list. After making the list over and over for several weeks, I realized all my cons were born out of fear–fear for safety and disease, fear of the additional cost, fear of a looooooong flight with a child (and two children coming back). But I’ve made decisions in the past out of fear, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to bring the fear to God and move forward in faith.

I pray all these big prayers for my girls, but I can’t pray those prayers and then bubble wrap them and lock them in their rooms. I have to give them back to God, much like Hannah did with her beloved Samuel. I have to see the purposes God has for them and encourage those even if they might scare me. The Holy Spirit is showing me a corner of the tapestry. He has lifted back a small piece for my eyes to take in, to see how He is knitting us together, our gifts and weaknesses woven together for the beauty of His Story.

The Lord is threading Lydia’s compassionate, sensitive spirit to a baby sister she has yet to meet. Her ability to see when people are hurting despite a happy facade will allow her to know when her baby sister is struggling but doesn’t want to say. Her gentle, nurturing hands will make her baby sister feel safe when they don’t speak the same language. And her sharp memory will capture her baby sister’s homeland in exquisite detail so she can tell the story over and over to reassure her baby sister of her roots.

And there’s just the full circle quality of it all. Lyd was our only child when we started this journey. Now, she is the oldest of four sisters, the servant leader. I believe God made her “for such a time as this.” And there’s her name from Acts 16–Lydia, the woman who had her heart opened by God and then led her family to know the God she worshiped. Never could I have imagined when I sat on the couch pregnant with this child I had begged God for and my Bible open to Acts that the name He would give me would carry forth to this day and this journey and this adventure.

Today, we go to renew her passport–her first step in this journey to bring her baby sister home. There will be vaccines and malaria meds and plane tickets and Dramamine. But above all I pray she tastes for herself the goodness of the Lord and the greatness of His adventure. This morning, I read these verses from Luke speaking of John the Baptist and wrote them on a sticky note for her page.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79). 

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For Bible this week, Lydia’s lesson said to write ways she “spies” God at work. Her faith spurs me on. 


Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

image from abideinhimphotography.com

It’s raining and has been for a few days. Our own little version of a rainy season. It’s raining in Addis too. I just looked on my weather app. Rain as far out as the forecast will go. We got new pictures and a video (oh sweet blessings!) last week. You were bundled in a warm, pink outfit. We’ve watched the video approximately 789 times. There you are with our book, the baby board book we made you full of our pictures. In the video, you pat the book over and over with your beautiful little hands. Your Auntie Heather said you were patting us like, “There they are. That’s my family.”

Do you know, sweet daughter? Do you know we are yours? Do you know we’ve always been yours? Do you know before you were ever conceived I’ve been praying for you? And for your birth mom and dad. One of the blessings of a long wait is that I’ve gotten to cover you in prayer before your DNA was helixed, before your cells divided, before you ever took your first breath. What a gift God gave me in that.

Before we mailed the baby book to our agency so they could deliver it, your big sister Georgia had quite the time looking at it. So much so that it had more than a few sticky fingerprints on it. As I grabbed the book to head to FedEx, I almost wiped it clean. But I didn’t. Those sticky fingerprints are our DNA, sweet girl. This is the family God has knit you into. We are a hot mess, a deluge of female hormones (God bless your daddy for putting up with all that estrogen), and as imperfect as they come. Yesterday, your big sis Lydi asked me in the car if I mess up. I almost spit out the water I had just sipped. I then rattled off a half-dozen ways I had messed up just since breakfast that morning. This family, we are living and breathing Amazing Grace, and your story is part of our story. God has used you to unclench my hands, to teach me surrender, to quiet my hurried pace.

It was raining last night, and your daddy picked up Ethiopian food for dinner. We sat around the table, five of the six seats full, and tore off pieces of injera and filled them with spicy meats and Berbere sauce. We played Uno and read I Love You, Stinky Face a dozen times on the floor of the nursery, the room you will soon share. And we watched the runners at the Olympics, cheering on the Ethiopians and Americans. The rain poured down outside, and we snuggled on the couch. Lydi wanted to give me a back massage (yes, always yes). Peach was “brushing” my hair which felt more like getting bludgeoned with a blunt object, but she kept putting her face right up in mine, cocking her head, and saying, “Yeah?” So, how could I stop that cuteness? Soon, you’ll be snuggled right there with us on a stained, slightly lumpy couch that’s been a safe place for a decade of memories.

There are some well-worn books in the nursery–If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, a Dog a Donut, and so on. One yes leads to another yes and another yes and another yes. And I wonder if that’s a little like how this adventure with God works. With every trembling yes I give Him, He heaps grace upon grace. Grace to keep trusting. Grace to keep believing. Grace to keep hoping.

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Break & Pour ~ A Mom’s Mission

Break & Pour ~ A Mom’s Mission

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*This post was originally published May 7, 2015. 

Some time ago, when Georgia was still tiny and all swaddled up and the skies were gray and icy, I sat in the rocker in the nursery rocking back and forth. I was reading about the last supper, the last meal my Savior shared with his friends before his crucifixion.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28

I glanced over at the eyelashes of my baby girl between the crib slats. I was weary and feeling very empty. I was also feeling very lumpy post-delivery and very in need of a shower. Those words kept crashing in my head like waves on the beach. Broken. Poured. Like a piece of wood bent until it splinters in two. Like a wine bottle hitting the tile and shattering, crimson droplets everywhere. Bread broken. Body broken. Cup poured. Blood poured.

I was a mess of emotions Tuesday after hugging Heather tight and saying goodbye to her before Jess and I boarded a plane back home. Heather is one of the most talented writers I know, and one day while talking in the car we both said how difficult writing is in this season. Because quiet time is rare and little hands need us. Because our minds feel like mush. And, I confessed to her, because it feels like every blog I write reads . . . This is hard. This is really hard. Have I mentioned this is hard? And who wants to read (or write) that all the time. But it is hard. And that’s okay. I could write just the pretty stuff, but that would be a lie. Break and pour. That’s what we do. Whether by pregnancy or adoption, our bodies bear the scars and the stretch marks and the gray hairs of that breaking. Our hearts beat with the muscle memory of those desperate tears and the painful prayers of that pouring out. We are acutely aware of our own brokenness, humbled by this great call on our life, this call of motherhood. We are keenly aware of our need to be poured into–by the Word, by the gift of friends and marriage, by the Sabbath.

We break bread and cut the crusts off peanut butter sandwiches and break smiles when they tell us the same knock knock joke 89 times in a row. We break sleep and change the sheets and rock the baby and banish the monsters under the bed. We pour milk and juice and cool water. We pour Cheerios and laundry detergent and cups of bath water over dirty heads and sun-kissed noses. And all those tiny moments seem insignificant and menial. But they aren’t. Because woven into each of those seemingly unimportant actions is the pursuit of a relationship. A relationship born out of love. A relationship for which we sacrifice and surrender. We break because He broke. We pour because He poured out. We love because He loved.

To the Mom Who Feels Like a Failure Today

To the Mom Who Feels Like a Failure Today

We’ve all been there. Some seasons it feels like we live there. I was in a rough spot a few months ago beating myself up for all the ways I felt like I was failing my kids. I can’t remember where I was going, but I was in the car by myself with the music cranked up and tears streaming down my face. (Probably not ideal driving conditions, I realize.) And the thought settled in my mind, “Elissa, let’s fast forward thirty years. Your girls are moms and raising their own children. If they are parenting like you are parenting, what will you say to them?” I knew exactly what I would say. I would grab their sweet, weary hands and say, “You are a rock star. No, I know you aren’t perfect. None of us is. But you are killing it–in the best possible way, of course. You are pouring yourself into these lives. You are learning and growing and loving with all you have. I am so proud of you.”

I shared this story with a friend yesterday who is going back to work for the first time today. She was anxious about being away from her child while she’s working and feeling the “mom guilt” every mom knows because of one decision or another.

We are hardest on ourselves, expecting perfection and second-guessing every single decision we make. Sometimes, we need to step back and look on our lives with the perspective of someone else. And realize we aren’t failing at all.

To my fellow imperfect, rock star moms, high fives to you.

How We Write Our Story

How We Write Our Story

IMG_4091I wonder if my Papaw ever dreamed his chair would one day be filled with Minnie and Lambie and Baby Ariel. I wonder if he knew a feisty girl with wild, blonde curls and mischievous, blue eyes would one day use his chair as a bed for all her stuffed critters. I wonder if he imagined a great-granddaughter with the middle name Anne after his beloved wife, her beloved great-grandmother, Annie Frances.

That’s the beauty of legacy–we write a chapter in a story without ever knowing the ending. We cling to a heavenly promise but can’t imagine how will it all be fleshed out one day. We are writing a story right now–this day–whether we want to or not. Honestly, some days I feel like the paragraph I penned is one word long–Survival. But if a bunch of those get written together the page starts to take a monotonous tone like having a PB&J sandwich for the 89th day in a row. Sometimes PB&J is our saving grace, but sometimes it’s just an excuse to stay in the box you’ve been living because it’s known and comfortable and easy.

My oldest loves to declare any day “the best day ever” so naturally holidays are her jam. Today, she woke up and said, “Mom, Easter was so much fun. I wish it could be Easter every day. But today is just a regular day, isn’t it?” She wanted a reason for today to be something special. But I told her today can be as special as she wants to make it. And the same is true for me. It’s a Monday, and it’s been rainy and overcast. I had five loads of laundry to catch up on from taking a break over the weekend. It’s easy to think, “It’s just another day. Let’s get through it and survive.” But I don’t want my chapters to be about survival. I want them to be about life and life abundant.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready, I kept saying to myself, “He’s alive.” And every time tears welled in my eyes. I’m alive because He lives in me. Not just alive, like I’m exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, but alive like I can see the beauty in what others call mundane. Alive like I can trust in the middle of a dark Saturday because I know the promise of Sunday. Alive like I can see purpose in piles of pink laundry and smushed up Goldfish crackers.

Alive and spilling every drop of precious ink onto the pages of my story because He spilled out His sacred blood for me.

This is how we write our story. It isn’t through a highlight reel. It’s through the daily pouring out of ourselves into the lives He has entrusted us with.

This is my story. This is my song.